Saturday, August 26, 2017


Brooklyn is huge but I like to think the characters in Beach Rats coexist in the same cinematic universe as the characters in It Felt Like Love. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frankie and his crew from Beach Rats were at that house party towards the end of It Felt Like Love. It's possible that Lila (IFLL) & Simone (BR) go to the same Brooklyn beach to hang out. When Lila (IFLL) is riding the bus home I bet Frankie is sitting a few seats down from her. Basically what I’m trying to say is that if you liked It Felt Like Love then you’ll more than likely enjoy Beach Rats.
Eliza Hittman is showing a different side of Brooklyn that some "outsiders" aren’t aware of (or don't acknowledge). Yes, a nice chunk of the story takes place in Coney Island but the surrounding neighborhoods aren't exactly tourist destinations. There was a period in the early/mid-90's when films like Strapped & Gravesend took us to areas of Brooklyn we weren't too familiar with but then those films disappeared (in my personal opinion Beach Rats is like an updated more layered version of Gravesend).

Gravesend / Beach Rats
It Felt Like Love / Beach Rats

While Saturday Night Fever & The French Connection are important & iconic films specific to Brooklyn, there are parts of the borough that don’t have constant noises or subway stops (in all fairness there are lots of trains & subway stops in Beach Rats but they're kind of far removed from union Square, Grand Central station or even Atlantic/Barclays center). Years ago I lived in Canarsie and whenever any of my non-New Yorker friends would come to visit, the first thing they would ask when they arrived was; “Where are we? Is this still Brooklyn?” That’s a huge part of the cinema of Eliza Hittman.
It isn’t too far-fetched to think that the characters in Saturday Night Fever or The Warriors have some relation or connection to the people in In Felt Like Love & Beach Rats. Is Tony (Saturday Night Fever) Frankie’s uncle? Does Lila's dad (It Felt Like Love) take the same bus route as Angie (Jungle Fever)? Frankie and his group of friends could very well be the younger siblings of the guys in Gravesend. Clearly this is all fan-fiction but these are the thoughts that swirl around in my mind after watching Beach Rats.

I’m always a little cautious about comparing films & filmmakers because I don't want anyone to think I'm calling someone lazy or a copycat. Artists are protective of their work (and sometimes they’re persona and/or "brand") and the last thing you want to be called is unoriginal (some filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch embrace the “copycat” label but generally speaking, most filmmakers don’t). Eliza Hittman seemed to embrace the influences in her latest film Beach Rats – a coming of age tale set in outer/”bush” Brooklyn that almost serves as an unofficial sequel to her feature film debut It Felt Like Love.

I'm not sure if my obsessive fascination with movie comparisons comes from the historical aspect of it all. No matter how you look at it, tipping your hat to a film that came before you is a form of history because the past is, well...history. History is important to me. It's also fascinating to discover what films your favorite directors watched & possibly retained...
The Life Of Jesus / Beach Rats
Raging Bull / Beach Rats (a nod made by Hittman herself on twitter a few days ago)

coincidental similarities look cool to me as well...
Beau Travail / Beach Rats
(I'm willing to admit when my ideas about influences & similarities are possibly off)

a recent photograph posted on Eliza Hittman's twitter
And since we’re on the subject of photography and its relation to Beach Rats, I don't think it’s too crazy to highlight the photography of Larry Clarke. The imagery of the shirtless/somewhat toned young man is common in both of their work…
Larry Clarke / Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats)

As you can see, the beauty of movie comparisons is that things branch off to so many different avenues of potential discovery which is essentially what being a film lover is all about, no? Discovering new films. From Beach Rats we spread off to everyone from Bruno Dumont & Martin Scorsese to Claire Denis & Barry Jenkins....

It Felt Like Love / Moonlight 

But this is bigger than comparing two different shots from two different films. Eliza Hittman's new film delves deep in to sexual identity and questions the idea of masculinity & sexual orientation. More than once in the film we hear our protagonist Frankie say; "I don't really know what I like" when asked about his sexual orientation. There's another scene when Frankie's girlfriend says something along the lines of; "When two girls make out it's hot. When two guys do it it's just gay"
We'll be delving in to this movie more on our Podcast soon but I just wanted to get a few thoughts out  while they're still fresh in my mind.


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